The sakura (cherry blossoms) are in full bloom in Tokyo. Although some people have refrained from partying, others have decided to continue with tradition. I was going to make this sushi roll for my preschool cooking class I taught last week, but decided in the end that it would be too complicated for little hands. I couldn't quite maneuver the cucumber strips easily as you can tell from the photo. We made Tex-Mex crispy tacos instead, and they absolutely loved them! But if you're in Tokyo or DC or wherever the sakura are blooming, you could bring this on a picnic.
Adapted from a recipe by Kawasumi Ken.
1 roll yields 4 round slices
120 g or about 1 cup, lightly packed white rice (Japanese rice, flavored with sushi vinegar if desired)
120g or about 1 cup, lightly packed pink rice (Japanese rice, flavored with ume, tarako, or in my case, a store bought sushi powder)
Artificial crab or kamaboko
Cucumber, cut to 10cm lengths and about 5mm widths
2 19cm x 21cm nori sheets
Prepare the nori sheets:
Lay one nori sheet flat with the shorter end toward you. Fold over in half, top to bottom, and cut into two pieces. One half will be used for the final roll. Set aside. Take the other half and fold over each side into thirds, and cut the nori so that there are three equal pieces. Set aside.
Take the other full sheet of nori and lay it flat with the shorter end toward you. Fold over in half, top to bottom, and cut into two pieces just like earlier. Take one half sheet and cut two 2 cm wide strips from it. You won't need the rest of that sheet. These strips will be used to hold the 5 small pink rolls together later. Take the remaining half sheet and fold over each side into thirds and cut them into three equal pieces.
Prepare the pink rolls:
You'll be needing 5 of the 6 small sheets of nori. With the shiny side of the nori down and the longer side toward you, put about 25 g (about 3 tablespoons) of pink rice in a row in the middle of the nori and roll up using a bamboo sushi mat. Make sure the nori covers all the rice. Repeat to make 5 small rolls.
Assemble the sakura:
On the bamboo mat, lay the two small strips of nori. Place three of the small pink rolls on top of the two strips of nori and add one cucumber strip in between each roll. Then gently lift the entire bamboo mat and hold it in your left hand, cupping your hand so that you can maintain a rounded shape. Place the artificial crab or kamaboko on top of the center roll, then add the remaining two pink rolls on top of the crab. Now, add one cucumber strip in between each pink roll on the outside. Secure the roll by closing the two nori strips and gluing each end shut with a piece of rice. You should be able to set the sakura roll down without fear of it coming apart. Set aside.
Prepare the white nori roll:
Take the one half sheet of nori you had set aside earlier and the one small sheet left behind after making the pink rolls. With the glossy side down, glue the two sheets together using some rice on the end of one sheet and placing the other nori sheet end on top of the rice and press down. On top of the bamboo mat, lay the glued nori sheet with the glossy side down, shorter end toward you. Place the white rice evenly on top of the nori sheet, leaving about 5cm of an edge on the top. In the middle of the white rice, place the sakura roll you had assembled earlier. Using the bamboo mat, roll the white rice-filled nori sheet over the sakura roll, squeeze gently and then continue rolling the white rice-filled nori sheet over the sakura roll. Squeeze the entire roll all over. Using a moistened towel, press the outside edges of the roll in so that it is even. Unroll the bamboo mat and slice the roll into 4 equal rounds. Wet your knife slightly before cutting and using a sawing motion, slice the roll.
Serve with soy sauce.